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Rockefeller Archaeological Museum

The Rockefeller Archaeological Museum houses antiquities unearthed in excavations conducted mainly during the time of the British Mandate.

The museum contains thousands of artifacts ranging from prehistoric times, dating back back one million years, to the Ottoman period.

Included in the collection is a 9,000-year old statue from Jericho, gold jewelry from the Bronze Age, and much more.

Forty-eight black-and-white photographs of archaeological sites have recently been added to the permanent exhibition.

These photographs document the pioneering archaeologists’ extensive work throughout the country in the first decades of the twentieth century.

The most charming part about this museum is the fact that it hasn’t changed much since opened in 1938.

It is frozen in time and looks very much the way museums were when British archaeologist excavated throughout the Middle East.

The idea for an antiquities museum in Jerusalem was first suggested by Patrick Geddes 1919 in a report on Jerusalem’s city plan.

The site he chose for the museum was at the northeastern corner of the Old City, a location very near to the actual site chosen almost ten years later.

The suggestion for a national museum of antiquities indicated a new direction in British policy where at least some of the finds that were a part of the national heritage, would be exhibited locally.

During the early 1920’s, several proposals for a national museum were presented to the High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, but all were rejected for lack of funds.

However, the Mandate Government was interested in the project, and in 1924 suggested a special “tourism tax” for that purpose but went nowhere. 

Then, in 1925, the prominent American anthropologist and archaeologist, James Henry Breasted, recognized the need for an archaeological museum in Jerusalem to house important regional finds.

Rockefeller suggested to Breasted that he contribute toward a museum and research institute in Jerusalem.

In 1926, conditions were agreed upon for the contribution of two million dollars to build and administer a museum in Jerusalem.

Half went towards construction and equipping the building. The other half was invested in a fund to finance the operating expenses of the Department and the museum. 

Rockefeller made two stipulates.

First, that the museum bearing his name be an archaeological, not a natural science museum.

Second, that the museum’s exhibits should shed light on the part played by the peoples of the Holy Land in world history.

The building was shared with the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, and included a small exhibition hall.

The museum was lost to the Jordanians during Israel’s 1948 war of independence.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli soldiers recaptured the building and used its towers as lookouts.

After the reunification of Jerusalem, the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum has been jointly managed by the Israel Museum and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Israel Museum was put in charge of the exhibition halls. While Israel Antiquities Authority was given the responsibility for the storerooms, archive, and library. 

Check out the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum webpage for visiting hours.

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